clearwater beachA Journey to Healing is a very personal account of a life changing event.

When Rick and I began the Midlife Road Trip years ago, we believed in our mission of “Travel as Therapy.” We have since traveled all over the world by air, road, rail and sea, and everything was moving along swimmingly. And then, there was a knock on my door that would change my life forever.

It was a lazy Saturday. Nothing much was happening, just unraveling from the week prior. I don’t remember the exact time the knock came, but as I opened the door, my heart sank. Standing before me were two State Troopers looking as though they were on official business. They asked if they could come in. As they entered, I called out to my husband who was in the other room.

We stared blankly at them, and they said, “We are very sorry to inform you that your daughter Kristel has been killed in a car accident.” I don’t remember much after that except muttering “Oh My God” for what seemed an eternity.

The next few days were a blur of sobs and disbelief. This couldn’t be happening; it couldn’t be real. But, it was.

What do we do now? Kristel has two daughters, Zoee 18 and Madi 12. In the blink of an eye, my husband and I became Madi’s legal guardians.

I thought to myself  “How can we ever get over such a loss?”

My daughter died the week before Thanksgiving. Everyone said, ” What an awful time for something like this to happen.” Truth be told, there is no good time, no better time, no worse time.

How do we go on? How do we celebrate with broken hearts and spirits? We cooked a turkey on Thanksgiving and ate pie, lots of pie. We stayed in pajamas, and we made it through.

But, how would we handle Christmas? That has always been THE family holiday. It would be the first Christmas for the girls without their mom. The old traditions were just too painful, still raw after just five weeks.

“Travel, it’s therapy. Practice what you preach Sandi”, I thought. Exhausted, we couldn’t deal with holiday crowds in airports and on highways, so we opted for a short drive to Clearwater Beach and the Sandpearl Resort. It was the best decision we could have made.

We arrived on Christmas Eve, and the Sandpearl lobby was decorated beautifully and to perfection. As we walked into our room, the lights from a full-size Christmas tree, adorned with ribbons and ornaments, greeted us. We were stunned, overwhelmed by their kindness. They knew of our loss and did something so incredibly thoughtful to ease our pain and create new memories. It was extraordinary. We inhaled the salt air, took in the beautiful view and sipped morning coffee on our balcony. It was the first time we were able to breathe in weeks. The kids were able to relax. Our healing was able to begin.

We had so many lovely moments during our stay. The staff, well they were more like family. They welcomed us in with open arms. A time that could have been so sad became hopeful and joyous.

You don’t have to travel far to begin a journey to healing.

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